Cleanup continues at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp

Published: Feb. 2, 2017 at 4:10 PM CST
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Picking up and uncovering waste and belongings is what many people are doing at the Oceti Sakowin Camp - the area where Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were camped out for months - and the work will continue for weeks to come.

People say they've been working since Monday to clean out the area and leave, but it's no small task.

People at the camp say they're making progress, but there's still a lot to be done.

Pushing around and picking up what's left behind at the Oceti Sakowin Camp is now how people there start and end their day.

"We all got together and tried to figure out a solution to get the camp cleaned out as soon as possible, because this place will flood," says Ivan Bleets, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Bleets says the cleanup is for the safety of children and adults, and members plan to relocate to other nearby camps. They said it's also necessary for the environment, and some are disappointed by how much was left behind.

"It's unfortunate. Again, that just goes against what they're fighting against, is leaving that stuff and abandoning it and obviously the environment the river," says Scott Davis, North Dakota Commissioner for Indian Affairs.

About 100 people have helped in clearing the camp. Besides the amount of trash and belongings, other challenges make it more difficult.

Having to chip away at snow and ice to remove trash is slowing the cleanup process; some say it will take weeks for the camp to be cleared.

But there is a bright side to what's left behind.

"It's like a shelving for pantry for people that come down from churches and other communities around here to pick up, and, you know, can be useful too," says Patrick Mantich, Nebraska.

Blankets and tents are among the goods being saved by those cleaning up for reuse at other protest camps.

The effort is a coordination between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, leaders of the camps and Nick Tilsen from Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation.